For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.
If I’ve learned anything in the past five months, it is that Pennsylvania is one giant commonwealth. Oh, I was told during the interview process, “You know, this is a pretty big diocese. You’ll spend a lot of time in the car.” I nodded, telling folks “not to worry, I love to drive.” During the walk-about week we traversed the diocese in our coach bus and learned first-hand of the distances involved; I found it all to be part of a grand traveling adventure... and then, in July, when I began my work here, I started to learn, for real, what it means to cover a territory that extends north to New York, south to Maryland, reaching far west to Bedford and east to Lancaster. I was given the keys to a 2015 Subaru Forester, a very able executive assistant to help manage my schedule and… I was off.
The challenge in all of this is not in the driving- the car is perfect, the roads are well maintained (if not constantly under repair…) and the scenery is bucolic to say the least (silos, golden waves of grain, deep blue mountains, sherbet-colored sunrises and sunsets)- no, the challenge is in deciding how to best manage one’s time, how to arrange the week’s appointments so the time in the car (and the fossil fuel burned) makes sense. Good sense.
Advent is all about time. The measure of time. We spend the season waiting, anticipating, hoping for the arrival of the Messiah. One of the temptations is to look through the season to the finish line (Christmas!) and neglect to savor the hours, days and weeks that make up the Advent season. The challenge is to look forward with anticipation to the birth of the babe while savoring the pregnancy.
In these past weeks I have asked to spend time with our retired clergy of the diocese. We have a goodly number of clerics in this diocese who have served, faithfully, for a great many number of years (some have served upwards of a half century) and my hunch is that there are great lessons to be learned from their collective experience. And so, I’ve been making my way to different regional centers- Lancaster, Williamsport, and Huntingdon, so far- to spend time with these folks. What a richness in their stories. I’ve heard about parish life in its evolving nature, about the relationship of bishop to clergy, about the practice of pastoral care, liturgical reform, striding with grace through the changes and chances of our common life, and about leading change in the name of progress. This “dip” back in time has informed my understanding of the current reality that we call “Episcopal diocesan life in Central Pennsylvania” and it has been time well, well spent. It has been time for me to learn, but even more importantly, time to build another layer of relationships among the people here as we continue our work together.
The message, then, for reflection, is this: how are you managing your time in this Advent season? What intentional choices are you making to move through this sacred season in a way where time is spent as a valuable commodity, a treasured resource that opens the door to deepening relationships, growing understanding, and a rounding of self in relationship to God?
Time is our resource for making ready. How will you choose to prepare?